Toute l'actu sur la protection de l'environnement

Botswana threatens to send 20000 elephants to Germany: background to a tense situation

The President of Botswana, Mokgweetsi Masisi, recently made a provocative statement, threatening to send 20,000 elephants to Berlin in response to a possible ban on the import of hunting trophies to Germany. The threat follows growing tensions between the two countries over Botswana’s elephant hunting policy.
In an interview published on 2 April 2024 by the German tabloid Bild, Botswana’s President Mokgweetsi Masisi promised to transfer up to 20,000 elephants to the German capital Berlin. For the Botswanan leader, this action would enable the Germans to understand the challenges faced by the Botswanans in cohabiting with a growing elephant population. With around 130,000 elephants, Botswana is home to the largest population of these pachyderms in the world.
President Masisi maintains that hunting is necessary to regulate the elephant population, which is causing conflict with local populations, damaging crops and threatening the safety of local people. Despite criticism from animal rights activists, Botswana reopened elephant hunting in 2019, claiming it was a way of controlling populations and protecting the livelihoods of local communities.
However, Germany is now considering imposing stricter restrictions on the import of hunting trophies, which could have a financial impact on Botswana, which derives significant revenue from the activity. The German Environment Ministry has stressed the need to protect biodiversity and combat poaching, justifying the proposed restrictions on the import of hunting trophies.
A joke that reflects a deep-seated evil
Despite Masisi’s threat to send tens of thousands of elephants to Germany, Berlin stated that no official request for their transfer had been received. All of which suggests that the Botswana head of state’s comments are part of a buzz, i.e. a media splash, as Gaborone is not making its first such promise.
Last March, Botswana’s Minister for Wildlife threatened to send 10,000 elephants to London’s Hyde Park so that the UK could « taste life alongside them ». At the time, the British government raised the possibility of preventing safari hunters from its territory from importing their trophies.
Tensions between wildlife-rich African countries and Western nations over the management of hunting and the conservation of endangered species have reached a critical level in recent years. Differences of opinion and the economic interests at stake continue to fuel a complex and often heated debate.
The issue of trophy hunting
Trophy hunting is one of the most controversial issues in this debate. African countries such as Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe argue that controlled hunting is necessary for the management of wildlife populations and to generate income that benefits local communities.
According to a study published in 2018 by the National Association of Taxidermy and Tannery (ANTT) in South Africa, trophy hunting contributes more than $340 million a year to the South African economy and accounts for 17,000 jobs. The spoils (skins, skulls, horns and bones) brought back by the hunters, most of whom are foreigners, are processed by taxidermists who perpetuate an art that goes back several centuries. The sector employs 6,000 people in South Africa.
Hunting licences, sometimes sold at very high prices, are the sector’s main source of income. For example, an elephant hunting licence in Botswana can cost up to €35,000 per head, and even higher sums can be spent on rare or prized species.
These revenues contribute not only to wildlife conservation and the fight against poaching, but also to the economic development of rural areas and job creation. However, critics argue that the profits from this industry do not always reach local people fairly, and that photographic tourism could be a more ethically and economically sustainable alternative.
Environmental and social challenges
The environmental and social challenges facing Africa’s wildlife-rich countries are numerous. The overpopulation of elephants in Botswana, for example, has led to increasing conflict with local populations, damage to crops and threats to human safety.
« As elephants become more numerous, they disperse southwards where they encounter communities that are not used to the behaviour of these animals », explains Mmadi Reuben, Chief Veterinary Officer, in a video relayed by the government in the face of controversy. Following a period of environmental study and consultation with local populations, the Botswana Hunting Ban and Social Dialogue Committee reports that around 200 Botswanans have been killed by elephants over the past five years.
In the face of these persistent tensions, it is imperative to engage in constructive dialogue between African countries and Western nations in order to find sustainable and balanced solutions for wildlife management. This means recognising and respecting different perspectives and priorities, while working together to promote biodiversity conservation and the well-being of local communities.
Fanta Mabo

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